from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 5th Edition.
- noun The misapplication of a word or phrase, as the use of blatant to mean “flagrant.”
- noun The use of a strained figure of speech, such as a mixed metaphor.
from The Century Dictionary.
- noun In rhet.: A figure by which a word is used to designate an object, idea, or act to which it can be applied only by an exceptional or undue extension of its proper sphere of meaning: as, to
stone(pelt) a person with bricks; a palatable tone; to display one's horsemanship in riding a mule; to drink from a horn of ivory.
- noun In philology, the employment of a word under a false form through misapprehension in regard to its origin: thus, causeway and crawfish or crayfish have their forms by catachresis.
from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English.
- noun (Rhet.) A figure by which one word is wrongly put for another, or by which a word is wrested from its true signification; as, “To take arms against a sea of troubles”. Shak. “Her voice was but the shadow of a sound.” Young.
from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.
- noun strained or paradoxical use of words either in error (as `blatant' to mean `flagrant') or deliberately (as in a mixed metaphor: `blind mouths')
from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition
from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License
Definitional inconsistencies notwithstanding, catachresis is a fascinating feature of language.
Poetic licence aside, catachresis is often just a mistake, as we have seen, e.g. flaunt for flout, ecliptic for eclectic.
A species of metaphor, catachresis is a "strained," "abused," or "perverted" use of language that names what otherwise has no name (a table leg,
Critical Presentism 2002
The word catachresis arrived, through the Latin word of the same spelling, from the Greek katakhrēsis, excessive use, from katakhrēsthai, to misuse or use up.
As telling as the term catachresis would be the word setzen.
You must listen to the definition of a catachresis: -- 'A catachresis is the boldest of any trope.
Tales and Novels — Volume 04 Maria Edgeworth 1808
From now on I shall try to avoid to call a catachresis, what after I’ve been moving to my last dwelling six feet under might be comme il fault.
Grammatical catachresis seems to include lexical catachresis, which he illustrates with examples such as infer for imply, and refute for deny, contradict (without argument).
The OED defines catachresis as ‘(An instance of) the incorrect use of words’.
Some authorities describe catachresis as the deterioration of a word, but it can also be described more neutrally as semantic drift, which is an inescapable characteristic of any language.